The evolution of the Olympic programme is a fascinating thing.

At the inaugural Games, which took place back in 1896 in Athens, a mere nine sports were contested.

Every stereotype of the ancient Olympics was adhered to at those first Olympic Games; it was all men, most were Greek, the primary venue was the grandly-named Panathenaic Stadium and the sports were things like wrestling, athletics, fencing and shooting.

Interestingly, every one of the nine sports on the programme in 1896 remain on the Olympic programme to this day.

But despite there still remaining a semblance of familiarity to the first-ever Olympic Games these days, almost everything else has changed.

There has, over the years, been almost constant tweaks and changes to the Olympic sports programme.

Tokyo 2020 represented one of the most significant shifts in Olympic history when the sports programme made a considerable lunge towards more modern, urban sports.

Tokyo saw the introduction of skateboarding, surfing and BMX while in Paris next year, breaking will make its debut.

And there are more changes afoot. 

Beginning today, the International Olympic Committee meet in Mumbai to decide which sports will grace the LA Olympic Games in 2028.

Almost certain to be granted inclusion are cricket, squash, lacrosse, flag football (which is a non-contact variant of American football) and baseball/softball.

It may seem a somewhat trivial matter to many outwith elite sport but for those within the bubble, the significance of the decisions taken in the coming days cannot be overstated.

The constant evolution of the Olympic programme is not only helpful, it’s necessary.

As the world moves on, evolves and changes, so too must sport.

And in so many cases, the addition of particular sports to the programme has been a wholly positive thing

My own sport, badminton, only joined the programme in 1992 and globally, is now one of the most-watched sports of the Games.

Similarly, few would argue that the addition of mountain biking in 1996, triathlon in 2000 and, more recently, sport climbing in 2020 have not been overwhelmingly positive for the Olympics.

There have, of course, also been sports which have fallen by the wayside.

Croquet in 1900, tug of war for several Games in the early 20th century and karate in 2020 have been tried, then dropped, failing to endure.

Changes to the programme are a natural part of the evolution of sport.

However, what’s becoming apparent is that the decision about what to include, and what not to, is becoming less about the merits of the sports (the ruled stipulate for inclusion, a sportmust be widely practiced in at least 75 countries, spread over four continents but that is, clearly, open to interpretation) and more about the finances, pure and simple.

Cricket, which seems certain to be included in 2028, will be a considerable money-spinner for the IOC.

The Herald:

Currently the broadcast rights in India are worth only $20 million to the IOC. With the inclusion of cricket, it’s estimated that could rise to $200 million.

This seems to be overriding the fact that the entire essence of the Olympics lives and dies on an Olympic gold medal being the biggest achievement in an athlete’s career.

In the same way that I disagree with the inclusion of golf, it’s hard to believe that the world’s top cricketers will put everything else second to an Olympic gold medal.

And that fact alone should be enough to rule it out.

The Olympics cannot be viewed as a play-thing to “try out” novel sports on the programme, nor as a money-making expedition.

The reputation of the Olympics is in enough trouble as it is; it’d be serious folly to heap more disdain on it unnecessarily.



Women’s boxing has come a long way in the two decades it’s been legal in this country and in the same timeframe, it’s grown exponentially globally.

From being seen as an abomination just over two decades ago, to then being viewed as some kind of freak show to now, being recognised as an entirely legitimate pursuit for women, with the sport boasting some of the world’s very best female athletes who can headline at the world’s greatest sporting venues, it’s been rapid progress.

However, this week, it’s been highlighted that female boxers are still battling for real equality.

As things stand, female fighters typically contest no more than ten rounds of two minutes. This applies to even the most prestigious title fights and is considerably shorter than the twelve rounds of three minutes that male fighters boxing for titles contest.

So this week, the undisputed featherweight world champion Amanda Serrano, along with two dozen other current and former female fighters spoke out about the unjustness of the discrepancy.

The Herald: Amanda Serrano (left) in action against Katie TaylorAmanda Serrano (left) in action against Katie Taylor

The Puerto Rican argued, quite rightly, that if 12 rounds of three minutes are good enough for the men, they’re good enough for the women too.

It’s impossible to disagree.

Women’s truncated fight length was due to fears they couldn’t cope with such a lengthy bout as the men undertake.

But we’ve seen this argument many times before; women couldn’t run a full marathon, they couldn’t ski jump and they couldn’t, apparently, contest full-length MMA fights due to their biological sex.

Except that as soon as they were “allowed” to try, they managed just fine.

Rail against the existence of boxing all you want but if it’s permitted as a sport then the length of fights for men and women should be exactly the same.